Paul argues he received his gospel first-hand as a revelation from the risen Lord. His lack of contact with the other apostles proves the divine origin of his understanding.
Paul wrote this letter around 49 AD, about 15 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus to churches he founded during his first missionary journey. After Paul left, the Judaizers taught the Galatians they must keep the law to be fully Christian. Paul wrote this letter in response.
Paul opens his letter by defending his authority and his gospel. He argues you can recognize the true gospel by its source and its substance. Its source is divine revelation from God. It substance is a complete understanding of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Paul continues defending his trustworthiness. He argues they can have utter confidence in the message he preached to them because he received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
- Galatians 1:11-12—he states his point that his gospel has divine origin. Then he supports it with what happened:
- Galatians 1:13-14—before his conversion;
- Galatians 1:15-16—at his conversion;
- Galatians 1:16-24—after his conversion.
11For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.—Galatians 1:11-12
- Galatians 1:11-12 state Paul’s main point in this section.
- God revealed himself to his prophets and apostles.
- This truth we believe came from God miraculously.
- No human created it.
- Therefore, the gospel is trustworthy.
13For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.—Galatians 1:13-14
- Before his conversion, Paul had everything the Galatians are attracted to now.
- Before his conversion, Paul kept the law better than almost anyone alive. But it did not make him pleasing to God. It made him a murderer.
15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;—Galatians 1:15-16
- Notice the pronoun shift (I persecuted, I was zealous … but God called me).
- At his conversion, everything changed.
- God chose Paul to be an apostle before Paul even had a chance to keep the law.
- Paul contributed nothing to God’s gracious calling.
- The story of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:1-15.
16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20(In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24And they glorified God because of me.—Galatians 1:16-24
- Paul offers three “alibis” to prove no human being taught him the gospel.
- First, he went to Arabia (1:16-17). Paul went to Arabia for 3 years between the events of Acts 9:19 and the events of Acts 9:20. During that time, Paul studied the Scriptures and learned the gospel by revelation of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. Paul returned to Damascus (Acts 9:20-25) briefly.
- Second, Paul went to Jerusalem briefly (Galatians 1:18-20; Acts 9:26-30). While he was in Jerusalem, he only saw two apostles (Peter and James). He didn’t stay long enough for them to teach him anything.
- Third, Paul went to Tarsus in Syria (Galatians 1:21-24), his hometown, where he stayed until Barnabas asked him to come to Antioch.
- After his conversion, Paul spends about 12 years on his own before beginning his ministry in Antioch.
Paul argues he received his gospel first-hand as a revelation from the risen Lord. He did not invent it himself. He didn’t even learn it from the other apostles or any other scholars. His lack of contact with the other apostles proves to the divine origin of his understanding.
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Season 23, episode 03